Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lanterns and Rocks

Stained-Glass Lantern at Disneyland

Hey there! I spent the last week in California and had a great time. It was primarily to visit friends, but it's impossible for me to not partake in at least a little art. So I thought I'd talk a little about the stuff I saw in California.

Lantern and bougainvilleas.
Firstly I went to Disneyland with a friend. Growing up at Disneyland made for an interesting childhood and even as an adult I find I still discover new things when I go. At Ranchodel Zocalo Restaurante you can find your lunch, but I enjoy eating there more for the atmosphere. The Mexican food restaurant is designed to look like a villa or bungalo that could be found in Mexico or California in days past. This quaint (I'm sure how I feel about using that word) bougainvillea-covered eating area is decorated with glass lanterns and beautiful tile work. I have stood in front of the door way for at least 15 minutes before, just admiring the stained-glass entryway. Even if you decide to eat somewhere else, but you love glass and tile work you should stop in to just look.

Levitated Mass

I also stopped by for a quick trip to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to view and experience the work entitled Levitated Mass. The piece consists of two main features: a walk way and a giant rock. Now it doesn't seem much but we're talking a GIANT rock. The rock was located in Riverside and was shipped into LA for the exhibit. A piece over 3 decades in the making. So I have a question for you and it's mostly about modern art. Do you think this rock is art? How is it art? Is it art because you can experience it or relate to it in some way? What do you think the statement is here? I wont go into what I think, but I would like a discussion on it. Even in ceramics and glass we face the same questions. What do you try and make your pieces say?  Or are the just something pretty to look at?

The view from above the walkway.

If you're interested in tile or glass work check out some of these things:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crystals and Glaze

A few years ago I was at a arts and crafts fair and came across a man with these beautifully glazed pieces. I can not remember his name, but I am pretty sure that man was William Melstrom. He is well known for his crystalline glazes and if you've seen his work you'd know why. His pieces are stunning to look at and although you might just want to hang them on a wall they are also functional. Melstrom has spent years perfecting this technique and it really shows. You can see Melstrom's website here.

It also shows that ceramics is at least two different beasts. One beast is with clay and getting it into the shape you want. The second is far more terrifying: glazing. Glazing was never really my strong suit. In fact I remember when a professor in college told me that I really needed to work on glazing. I remember thinking, “Well it would be nice if I could first get the clay into the shape I want it first.” That was years ago no, I think my point has been made about the beasts of the ceramic world.

Glazes to create crystal effects has become increasingly more popular and although they will not give you results like Melstrom's, there are commercial crystal glazes. Some of the more known crystal glazes are from Mayco and Amaco. These glazes usually come in liquid form and have crystal chunks in them.  They need to be stirred well since the crystals usually sink to the bottom.  They can either be dipped or brushed onto bisqueware.  These crystal glazes provide unique color variations that can be quite intense at times. All crystal glazes are low-fire glazes and are an easy way to give your pieces a little splash of contrast. My favorites are:  
30 Singed Maple Crystaltex Pt
Singed Maple Crystaltex
Mayco S-2703 Berryberry Pie 4o
Berryberry Pie Crystalites
Mayco CG-786 Obsidian 4 oz   
Obsidian Jungle Gem Glaze

Friday, August 17, 2012

Glazing Through Time

We're talking about glaze this month so I thought I would talk about something very basic. What is glaze exactly? Glaze can be defined as any material or combination of materials that will melt and fuse permanently to the surface of a clay body. How does it work you may ask? Well, materials are suspended in water and applied to a bisqueware piece in its liquid form. Glaze needs to be applied to bisqueware because bisque-fired clay is very dry and porous. When the glaze is applied the porous clay absorbs the water leaving behind a deposit of the previously suspended materials. Then in the kiln these materials melt down at high temperatures and form a glass-like surface.

Now, let's go back in time 4,000 years. (Don't worry, my time machine WILL fit all of you.) It was probably the ancient Egyptians that brought us our first glazed-like pieces. They brought us so many things like pyramids and beer, why not glaze too? China also experimented with materials applied to clay to make a shiny, finished surface. Even the Greeks found techniques to making pots shiny and beautiful to look at. Every culture approached it differently based on the materials they found in their region.

So coming back from our trip through time; how has glaze developed since 2000 B.C.E.? Mostly through experimentation and testing. This is also known as trial and error, folks. (It's what I've been preaching!)  I don't want to sound like a broken record, but testing your glazes is extremely important in discovering what works and what doesn't. If you'd like to keep up with glaze techniques please check out our YouTube where all of August (and maybe September) we're talking about glazing.   

Some books to look at about glazing:

 how ceramic glazes work
 helpful information on the color spectrum found in ceramic glazes

Thursday, August 09, 2012

August Glaze Month

Did you see our demo video last week? It was about how to apply glaze using a brush. I find that many questions have been asked have been about glazing so I thought I'd launch a glaze series. Over the next couple of weeks (or longer if need be) The Ceramic Shop will be creating demonstrations based on different glazing techniques and things we feel you should know. If you have any question we are more than happy to hear them because we want to answer as many questions as possible.

I feel perhaps I was hasty in jumping straight into applying glazes last week, so this week we are going to be taking a little step back. I would like to cover the basics from testing glazes, applying glazes and what precautions to take to keep your pieces looking fabulous while not destroying your kiln. It is my goal by the end of this to inform you on useful techniques and products that will make glazing less of a stress and more of a pleasure.

So sit tight, stay tuned and all that jazz; I hope you're ready to learn about glazes because August is going to be a month about glazing. Leave us a comment on our Facebook or our videos and I will make sure all your questions get answered!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Peek Inside Your Kiln

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside your kiln? I used to think of a kiln as a magic box that you placed your hard work into; when it came out it would be transformed and none of it was under your control. Well, Skutt has something to say about that. They created the KilnLink Monitoring System to do just what its name entails: monitor.

The KilnLink is designed to be a connection to an electrical kiln and wherever this is internet access. Now you can check the status of your kiln when you are not in your kiln room. When you log in to your account during a firing you can view current temperatures, graphs of firings, programs, plus the start and end times. The KilnLink Monitoring System stores your firings in an cloud based database so you can review firing schedules, firing costs and notes on performance and so much more.

KilnLink is great for schools because it allow teachers and students to follow along with their firings. It will also help you reproduce your favorite firing schedules, as well as avoid those you found you did not like as much. For more information on the KilnLink System click here.

The Ceramic Shop was one of the first to install this system in our working studio. We will be hosting a workshop in combined efforts with Skutt Kilns to show you basic kiln set up and repairs and to show off the KilnLink System. The workshop is good for anyone who owns or is thinking of owning an electrical kiln. More information here. Make your reservations today, spots will be limited!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Visit from Amaco

Us hanging out with the Amaco.

Last week we had a visit from some guys from Amaco. They spent the whole day making our store a mess by moving everything around, but don't worry: they promised to cleaned up before they left. And they held true to their promises!

We also got a bit of a demo and started making some test tiles so that people who come into our store can see and feel some of the glazes, especially the new glazes.

If you're new to Amaco Glazes, there is something you should know. All Amaco Glazes are formulated to be brushed on. If you spray or dip your pieces with these glazes they may not come out the way they were intended to.  Amaco taught us how to properly “load” a brush for glaze application. Take a natural brush, a fan brush is probably best, and dip in the glaze. Then tap off the excess glaze rather than wipe it off like you would on the side of the container. Wiping it takes off too much glaze and will result in streaking your pieces. Next is to just apply it on to the piece, using short strokes. You should apply at least 2 coats and let the glaze FULLY dry in between each coat.

You can mix a lot of Amaco Glazes to get unique effects. Mix the Potter's Choice line with Celebration, Arroya, or the Texturizer.

Some examples of the effects you can achieve with Amaco Glazes

If you have any questions on applying Amaco Glazes please let us know and please share with us your results! Post photos on our Facebook or Tweet at us!  

We were responsible for this mess.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adventures of a Glaze Tech

Our very own glaze technician, Gina has been off on another adventure! She's currently in Pompeii working for and archaeological research project called Porta Stavia and is run by the University of Cincinnati. Many of the artifacts they're digging up are ceramic remnants of amphora, cookware, and higher-end table ware. They dug up so much they spent at least one afternoon dedicated to scrubbing the pottery; that is a lot of pottery. They even uncovered a kiln making it the third kiln ever found in Pompeii! Isn't that exciting?

They still have a bit more excavating to do, then writing the final report and we'll have Gina back. I'm totally jealous; it sounds like she's had a good time. Here's to a great time in Pompeii and a safe trip home!

It's Gina in the kiln they found!